Singapore. I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read Lee Kwan Yew’s ‘The Singapore Story‘. The opportunity came up when a church there invited me to visit with a couple of other pastors. So I’m here with Psts. Ken Kamau & George Shiramba of K3C and Nairobi Baptist respectively as well as two other friends from K3C, Charles & Pastor Anne.

I was amazed by the quality & service of flying Thai Airlines from Bangkok (the steward assured me it was way better than Singapore Airlines – sibling rivalry?). My first impression of Singapore is the heat. It hits you like the shimmering wave when you get off the plane in Mombasa on a hot December afternoon. Yet one of our hosts assured us it isn’t even the hot season yet! The other immediate impression is the number of high-rise apartments. I’ve never seen so many in my life! The amazing fact is that 90% of the housing in Singapore is constructed by the government, and then provided at subsidized prices to the populace.

The airport that was rated best in the world a short time ago is partly built on land reclaimed from the sea. The city is the cleanest in the world. And no wonder! A carelessly thrown piece of paper could earn you up to $1000 Singapore dollars (SGD) in fines (rate is 1:1.2 to the USD). Gum chewing/possession (?) is illegal & could earn you a similar fine. And drug trafficking is punishable by death. The red warning on your immigration card says so in bold letters. You get this sobering feeling that they’re not kidding!

The government operates like a corporation and invests public funds, periodically giving dividends to all citizens while also giving a high interest return on citizen’s investment funds. Never heard of anything like it! Then get this; the government charges citizens 100 SGD to enter one of the two permitted casinos, but it’s free for non-citizens. In other words, you can bring in your investment dollars but don’t you dare harm our people!

There’s an amazingly efficient rapid transit system so you can get almost anywhere by train. So they’ve discouraged car ownership through heavy fees and taxes. A Japanese car here could cost you around 6M Ksh! And it’s not just about money. You need to bid for a license to own a car – and you’re not guaranteed to get one. But once you do, black number plates allow you to drive anytime while with red ones you can only drive on weekends. You decide which ones you want but guess which are more expensive! Talk about efficiently controlling traffic volume; Nairobi has not even began to figure this one out.

Okay, I know I’m gushing and that’s not cool. But a spade’s a spade as far as I’m concerned. Fact is these guys got independence from the Brits the same time as Kenya did (31st August 1963) and had about the same democratic space for a long time (basically zero). But their leaders led by the venerable Lee Kwan Yew himself used the power they had for the good of their people. And this little country of 704 km2 (same size as Nairobi ~ 696km2) and 5M people (Nairobi ~ 4M) has as a result done phenomenally well. In a list of the world’s wealthy nations per capita (GDP at purchasing power parity per capita), it ranks 3rd @ 57,238$ (compared to Kenya’s 150th @ 1,784$) stats ~ here

Go figure!

Can’t wait to meet church leaders and see what mutual learning possibilities God brings our way. We’ve gotten a very hospitable reception so far (I was going to say warm but I’ll save that for the weather) and I sense a real passion for people and especially for serving the poor among those I’ve met so far (yes, there are poor people, even here). I have a good sense about the week ahead. I’ll try and update some of my learnings whenever I can.


13 responses to “Singapore

  1. This is the first country and only country I got to visit so far, and I was not disappointed at all πŸ™‚

  2. Wow! am bila words… what is long with us! who messed us…. here people rush to court to protest about a small parking increment in order to cub traffic congestion in the city yet we keep complaining about it. Thanks pastor M for the info.

  3. Pst M. I’m a benefactor of your commitment to develop influential Christians around the globe starting with The City. Asante sana and may God continue to enlarge you.

    Singapore’s story is amazing in it’s own right. There are myriad of examples of how she has developed tremendously despite having a historical time line that is almost a twin to Kenya’s which unfortunately is still grappling with issues listed in the first post independence government objectives; health, education etc we know them all too well.

    I’m in the relatively nascent BPO industry and have used the country in many occasions as a case study in my work. The industry is a key pillar of the 6 main on of the economic blueprint Vision 2030 whose crafting borrowed heavily from the Singapore story. On a personal level, am actually convinced it would be worthwhile to advance my studies in a business school with a campus there than in Europe and U.S given the uniqueness of their heritage so hope to share your experience soon.

    I look forward to learning more from you especially practical lessons by church leaders and their contribution to the country in all forms. In the meantime am not missing any SIN CITY sermon.


  4. Woah!! The should hire you to head their tourism board…:) as usual good writing Pastor M,when I grow up I want to write just like you. So what was it like meeting the church leaders?
    Can’t wait to hear that. Sounds like an amazing Nation with very good systems and policies!! Btw we have the mizizi retreat taking place this weekend in Dar,the testimonies are phenomenal.
    May God continuously raise you from one level to another and may blessing overflow.

  5. Thanks for all the comments guys. @Yvonne, not trying to be Singapore’s ambassador πŸ™‚ I just believe that everything they’ve done is also possible for us. We have to see it to know what’s possible though and then to believe that we can also do it. Like @martin, I believe leadership is key. Not just national leadership though but also personal responsibility.

  6. ..yes sadly true personal leadership is where it all kicks in at…but I kind of like the way I had put it…that way I could distance myself fom the problem and join in a chorous “..tunge omba serekali..” and retreat into my comfort zone, after having succesfully passed the problem over….then you came along…

  7. Pst M, or is it uncle travelling mac! I am constantly bothered by our city’s lack of systems and order. I was at a funeral in langata and so sad that the city council cannot organise the cemetry…. i wish i could do it for them (for free!!), how i wish i had access. But like you said Pst M, personal responsibility means i start with where i am… lakini, i will one day the local govt minister….it will change πŸ™‚
    Happy travels Pst M.

  8. Hey! Yaani – I will so quote you because I was looking at the two countries comparisons. I heard somewhere that they copied a vision Kenya had done for herself at some point is this true? Also, when you get off the plane is there a billboard that says – Singapore, a fine country (pan intended), if there is can you take a pic for me. Research for a project I am doing.

    Thanks! And have a blast!

  9. @Flora, the parking increments came without the related improved transport people were to use instead of their cars. Case of cart before the horse perhaps?

  10. Pastor M! We missed you here in Singapore. We are online mavunites. we hope there is a Next visit. Karibu tena!

  11. Singapore $57,238
    Kenya : $1,784$

    that is the ripple effect of bad decision making and corruption.

    I cant believe it, and Kenya has everything going for her. and by everything i mean EVERYTHING: land, educated work force, great climate, natural resources, vast tourism opportunity, regional positioning advantage.

    But because of poor leadership, we’re choking on Singapore’s dust…

  12. I am Evangelist Dike, an annoited man of God from Nigeria residing in Lome the capital city of Togo, I will like to use this opportnity to solicite for the hand of friendship in promoting the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who once was and is and is to come.

    It will be a great pleasure to have you respond to this and as you do so the ALMIGHTY GOD will bless you.

    Evangelist Dike.

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